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Vale Richard Woolcott AC FAIIA

Published 19 Feb 2023

The Australian Institute of International Affairs was sad to hear this month of the passing of Richard Woolcott AC FAIIA, former Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). Woolcott was also one of the institute’s inaugural fellows. In a world where Australia is now grappling with great power competition within its near abroad, it is useful to reflect that in 1967 Woolcott drafted a speech for Prime Minister Harold Holt, noting that Australia was geographically part of Asia. Woolcott held several diplomatic positions, including ambassador to Indonesia during the Indonesian invasion of East Timor (1975-78), ambassador to the Philippines (1978-82), and ambassador to the United Nations (1982-88), when he served as president of the Security Council. He served as secretary of DFAT from 1988-92, where he was involved in the Asia-Pacific Economic Forum. He was a founding director of the Asia Society AustralAsia Centre, now Asia Society Australia. He is survived by his son Peter, also a diplomat who has served as Australian ambassador to Italy.

The AIIA wishes his family comfort during this difficult time.